The two wood carved statues and the cast chandelier, now on display in the permanent collection at the National History Museum, were created by Mestre Valentim during the period of 1801-1812 as part of the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross of the Military Church (Igreja da Irmandade da Santa Cruz dos Militares). The statues were part of the original façade of the church.
The oil painting displayed between the two Saints was painted much later, in 1862, by the Italian artist Luigi Stallone (Naples, Italy, 1802 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1876). The painting details the Our Lady of the Victories Chapel, which was carved by Mestre Valentim. This chapel is located inside St. Francis of Paula church.
Interview with Nireu Cavalcanti (pt. 1 of 8)
Who was Mestre Valentim?
The discovery of the baptismal cerificate and will of Master Valentim was very important in defining the history of this artist. He was baptized on March 8, 1744, in Gouveia, a town in Serro Frio, MG. He was probably born on Valentine's Day, February 13, and his mother was an enslaved woman named Joana. There's no father's name on his baptismal certificate.
At the age of 22, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he started to identify himself as the son of Manoel da Fonseca e Silva, a senor goverment official and very well-known person in the city, and named Amatilde as his mother. Valentim presented himself as the son of this man who was a titled Knight of the Order of Christ, and it was a great advantage for his insertion into Rio de Janeiro's society.
Upon his arrival in Rio, he joined the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Conception and the Good Death, a Brotherhood that included Black and mixed race members. At the time, the brotherhoods operated as vast professional networks across social class boundaries. From there, he started working on the construction of the main churches of the city and later was hired by Dom Luis de Vasconcelos to design the Public Prominade (Passeio Público) and other civil works.